Join us for a book signing featuring "Jews of Springfield in the Ozarks" by Mara W. Cohen Ioannides and M. Rachel Gholson, at the History Museum for Springfield - Greene County on Park Central Square on Saturday, March 2.
Jews arrived to the bustling town of Springfield shortly after its founding in 1838, only five years after the birth of the state of Missouri. The first Jews to live in Springfield were Victor and Bertha Sommers with her brother Ferdinand Bakrow. They opened Victor Sommers & Co., a dry goods store in 1860. The Jewish community grew as merchants brought their families, tying Springfield to other towns along the Mississippi River through marriages. The first congregation was founded in 1893 by the German Reform Jews. In 1918, the Eastern European Jews founded their Orthodox congregation. In the 1940s, the two merged. Unlike other small Jewish communities that have slowly perished because of their children's migration to larger Jewish communities where they could use their education, this Jewish community in the Ozarks continues to thrive because of the universities and hospitals in the region.
Mara W. Cohen Ioannides and Dr. M. Rachel Gholson, both English faculty at Missouri State University, have spent over a decade studying the community. They have gathered photographs from the History Museum for Springfield-Greene County, Special Collections and Archives at Missouri State University, and the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio, as well as other archives and families associated with the Jewish community.